Kenedy Ranch Trip Report
April 1999
KENEDY RANCH, South Texas - April 23rd-25th 1999

In April 1999 we went on a birding weekend to the Kenedy Ranch. It was a privately organized tour with 2 experienced Texas birders. I believe the Kenedy Memorial Foundation have changed the rules on access to the Ranch, so please have a look at their own website for contact information. There is more information here: Kenedy Museum website.


The Ranch, south of Kingsville, is to the east of Hwy 77, the major route to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It is owned and managed by the Kenedy Memorial Foundation and is over 235,000 acres in size and over 300 species of birds have been seen here.  It is considered the last large tract of native coastal prairie habitat in Texas and for over a century it has been a highly protected game preserve. This area was once home to the last tribe of Karankawa Indians. There are vast areas of native grasses and oak mottes, migrating sand dunes, salt flats, bays and artesian wells, providing habitat for the diverse wildlife on the ranch, although we only saw a few deer, a Texas Horned Lizard (endangered) and a land turtle (not sure of the species, but also endangered). The birdlife is prolific!

We drove down from Houston on the Thursday afternoon and stayed in a motel at Kingsville, so that we would be sure to be at the rendez-vous point on time, on the Friday morning. We'd been informed that the group would not wait for late-comers, and everyone had to be signed in to the Ranch together.

We met at the ranch gate, south of the Sarita Rest-stop, on Hwy 77, and then proceeded to bird along the ranch road on our way to the San Pedro Camp, our home for the next 2 nights. The camp was constructed in the 19th century, before the ranch was purchased by Captain Mifflin Kenedy, the main house being used as a residence until the 1920's. Our accomodation was very comfortable, with most of the rooms having private bathrooms. Electricity was supplied by generator & we had fun barbecuing both nights, and there was also a good propane gas oven in the kitchen.

The cost for the 3 days was $180 per person, when last checked in April 2001. We all took our own food and beverages for the weekend, to keep the costs down. The tour guides did supply morning coffee and water and sodas throughout the day, while touring the Ranch. It's best to take a large cooler, as the camp fridge was not large enough to accommodate everyone's supplies.


On Friday morning, before arriving at the Ranch, we had a great start to the trip by getting our first life bird of the weekend - a Harris' Hawk, perched on a post by Hwy 77, near Riviera. On the ranch we easily saw the South Texas specialities : Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Tropical Parula, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Green Jay, Hooded Oriole and Buff-bellied Hummingbird. The total list for the whole group was about 155 -160, but we didn't pick up as many as we weren't always in the right place at the right time! Nevertheless we are very satisfied with the 108 species that we did get, and my life list has now grown to 328.

The weather was hot & very windy (20-30 mph on Friday) which kept away not only the mosquitoes (good!), but also the migrating warblers, etc, that we were hoping for (not so good!). The wind did not keep away the ticks, though - anyone going in the future be warned! The second trip the following weekend had perfect weather conditions for a good count of migratory birds - their total list topped 200. 

We rose at 5:30 each morning in order to get an early start and were rewarded with great looks at the Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet singing his heart out very near the camp. We then car-pooled in pick-ups and SUV's and spent the rest of the day driving over the ranch's caliche roads, picking up 17 lifers on Friday, 18 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday. We would like to thank the leaders of our trip and the many more experienced members of our group, who helped us see our 40 life birds.

Highlights were Greater Roadrunner, which had just caught a lizard for breakfast; Reddish Egret in good breeding colours; 3 Lesser Goldfinches in beautiful vivid yellow & black plumage; a couple of young Great-horned Owls on a huge nest, high in a live oak; all the herons/egrets and the 3 ibises in one weekend; the beautiful colours of the Green Jays; good, long look at the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl; singing Painted Buntings; and a female Wild Turkey stealing seed from the bird feeder at San Pedro Camp!

* Lifers

  * Least Grebe
    Pied-billed Grebe
    Eared Grebe
    Double-crested Cormorant
    Brown Pelican
    Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
    Ruddy Duck
  * American Wigeon
    Blue-winged Teal
    Northern Shoveler
  * Redhead
    Lesser Scaup
    Red-breasted Merganser
    Reddish Egret
    Tricolored Heron
    Little Blue Heron
    Snowy Egret
   Great Blue Heron
    Great Egret
    Cattle Egret
   Green Heron
    Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
    Black-crowned Night-Heron
    White Ibis
  * Glossy Ibis
    White-faced Ibis
    Black Vulture
    Turkey Vulture
  * Cooper's Hawk
  * Harris' Hawk
    Broad-winged Hawk
    White-tailed Hawk
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Crested Caracara
    Peregrine Falcon
  * Wild Turkey
    Northern Bobwhite
    Sora (heard only)
    American Coot
  * Whimbrel
    Long-billed Curlew
    Lesser Yellowlegs
    Solitary Sandpiper
    Spotted Sandpiper
  * Western Sandpiper
  * Least Sandpiper
  * Pectoral Sandpiper
  * Wilson's Phalarope
    Black-necked Stilt
  * Lesser Golden-Plover
  * Black-bellied Plover
    Wilson's Plover
  * Snowy Plover
    Laughing Gull
  * Franklin's Gull
  * Gull-billed Tern
    Mourning Dove
  * Common Ground-Dove
    Greater Roadrunner
    Great Horned Owl
  * Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
    Common Nighthawk
  * Buff-bellied Hummingbird
  * Golden-fronted Woodpecker
    Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  * Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
  * Olive-sided Flycatcher
    Vermilion Flycatcher
  * Brown-crested Flycatcher
    Couch's Kingbird
    Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
    Eastern Kingbird
  * Great Kiskadee
  * Green Jay
  * Chihuahuan Raven
    White-eyed Vireo
  * Red-eyed Vireo
    Northern Mockingbird
  * Long-billed Thrasher
  * Curve-billed Thrasher
  * Bewick's Wren
    Carolina Wren
    Barn Swallow
    Cliff Swallow
    Black-crested Titmouse
  * Lesser Goldfinch
  * Tropical Parula
  * Louisiana Waterthrush
    Savannah Sparrow
  * Field Sparrow
  * Lark Sparrow
  * Botteri's Sparrow
  * Olive Sparrow
    Summer Tanager
    Northern Cardinal
    Blue Grosbeak
    Indigo Bunting
    Painted Bunting
  * Hooded Oriole
    Baltimore Oriole
    Red-winged Blackbird
    Eastern Meadowlark
    Great-tailed Grackle
  * Bronzed Cowbird
    Brown-headed Cowbird

Total species  108
Lifers  40

Helen Baines

This page was last updated on: April 12, 2013